OREO is one of the most popular brands in the food & beverage industry and beyond. From hyped limited editions to legendary social media stunts, OREO’s relentless focus on brand relevance is a winning marketing approach. This article explores the ingredients behind the brand’s very unique recipe for success.

Credits - Ebay

Recently you may have heard about some bright red cookies selling on eBay for more than $4000. The reason is plain. One of the two logos printed on the flashy pack reads Supreme, a luxury streetwear brand whose exclusive items get often auctioned for way heftier amounts. What’s interesting is the other one though. A bold, blue & white font spelling OREO.

Yes, the cookie… I mean, the cookie?!

I found out about the launch during a standard scrolling session on Instagram and as soon as the post caught my eye, the mind started running. I had been used to Supreme’s extravagant partnerships with brands ranging from Fender Stratocaster to Kermit The Frog… but that was unexpected. As an FMCG marketer, realising that a commoditised product had broken into the hype culture and was re-selling at 1000x its intrinsic value was a revelation. I became so intrigued by that red cookie, and the brand behind it. How did they get to such a genius move?  I craved more knowledge… and some OREOs.

More than a cookie

A quick Google search got me some good background information. OREO is a $3 billion brand worldwide. More than a hundred years of history. The best selling cookie in the XX century. Okay, it clearly has enough cash and equity to be flirting with fancy limited editions. But the question still stood – how did it get to the point of partnering with one of the hottest fashion brands on Earth?

That’s when I came across this enlightening article by Fast Company. Brand relevance is the keyword – a mix of consumer empathy, bold innovation and on-trend communication that boosts all metrics from awareness to loyalty. OREO seems to know a thing or two about it.

Long story short… In 2013 the OREO brand underwent a big internal change. Even if it still represented a star in Mondelez’s portfolio, OREO’s communication had become dangerously “narcissistic” due to a heavy focus on long-term, trusted but potentially obsolete audiences and messages. This eventually led to a lack of clarity on the brand’s role in the real world, so CMO Dana Anderson & team decided to make a U-turn and embrace a much more culturally-relevant marketing approach by experimenting with innovation and comms, rejuvenating the tone of voice and guiding the brand back into pop-culture. What followed was fame, prosperity and some of the best real-time marketing stunts in history, including the 2013 Super Bowl ‘blackout’ tweet which generated over 15k retweets. A cookie had found its personality again.

Credits – Siu Creative

It’s all about relevance

Almost a decade later and OREO is one of the most relevant FMCG brands out there. Groovy content, trendy innovation and a catchy personality that winks to younger demographics but is loved by all generations. Making the news worldwide with an exclusive red pack is just another confirmation that the long-term approach is still paying off.

Fascinated by OREO’s communication recipe I spent a few days researching about the brand, and I cherry-picked three ingredients that make OREO such an unique example of brand building in the FMCG world. These are some of the most compelling strategies and tactics that are driving OREO into the stratosphere of the food & beverage industry. Since that turnaround point in the early 2010s, the OREO brand is actually worth one billion $$$ more in global revenues.. They must be doing things right.

Scroll along to read the three ingredients in OREO’s recipe for brand relevance.

Credits - PHD Media London

#1 Strength in partnerships

In the same way this article started, the very first point to cover is partnerships because OREO is just so good at them. Brand partnerships are well-known marketing tactics where both parties benefit from increased reach, extended budgets, customer recruitment and equity building. Although they have been around for ages, OREO has been able to turn them into buzz-making gems by doing things differently to the competition.

It’s fairly common for food brands to partner across categories to unlock innovation & renovation opportunities, and OREO has certainly pulled that lever in the past – the Dairy Milk or Cookie Pop collabs are recent instances. But what OREO does so well is to tap into partnership opportunities outside its industry, generating extra sales and boosting its progressive, trendy image. A few examples…

  • Fashion
    The already mentioned Supreme x OREO collab is a textbook execution. But the latest partnership with fashion blogger Chiara Ferragni is another brilliant case, complemented by a limited edition pack exclusively available in Italy. Is there anything more fashionable than fashion, after all?
  • TV
    What was the most popular TV series in 2019? Game of Thrones. So GoT x OREO cookies… why not?! OREO leveraged the #winteriscoming hype with a limited edition pack, as well as a legendary rendition of the show’s title sequence shot with OREO cookies. Yes, seriously.
  • Music
    In 2019 OREO partnered with Wiz Khalifa – huge name in the hip hop world – in their global #StayPlayful campaign premiered at the Grammys. The rapper even released an OREO-themed song co-written by his 5-year son Sebastian. Right, not one your local brand could afford but again, it takes some guts to launch such a collab if you’re a cookie. Respect.
  • Tech
    Other confectionery brands have been there before but OREO didn’t waste its chance to be featured in the official name of the Android operative system in 2017 – Android 8.0 OREO™. As of September 2019 it was present in 27% of all Android devices in the world, generating a constant source of brand awareness for OREO.

#2 Trendsetting innovation

In the food & beverage industry, a fast pace of innovation is critical to maintain visibility in retailers and attract new consumers. More than a century after its conception, OREO has demonstrated that its pipeline is as strong and wide as ever. Fundamentally there are two parts in OREO’s offering, its core range and the limited editions. And while the former – the original cookie in all sizes and variations – is the brand’s main source of business, it’s the latter that represents a key tool in the OREO’s perennial quest to relevance.

Limited editions are a powerful device in the FMCG world, providing a flexible source of incremental sales, shopper recruitment and talkability. In the hands of OREO they become another smooth way to consistently break into pop-culture. Just like the Marshmallow Moon OREO cookies, launched in June 2019 in a futuristic glow-in-the-dark wrapper to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.  Or the Boo! OREO cookies, with their orange cream and spooky shapes for Halloween. The Mystery OREO cookies, giving people the chance to win $50k if they guessed the flavour – talk about generating trial! Or even when the brand involved consumers to ideate new flavours as part of the #MyOREOCreation contest which gave birth to the Cherry Cola, Kettle Corn and Piña Colada limited editions. 

Products acting as natural touchpoints of the overarching brand ambition, that is the pursuit of ultimate relevance. It’s marketing 101 but OREO does it so right that needs to be called out.

Credits – OREO

#3 Next-level social media

In the age of digitalism the primary gateway to cultural relevance is the social media universe. There’s simply no other channel that offers that level of real-time connection and bilateral interactivity with consumers, so it’s not a coincidence that OREO’s social media game is one of the very best on the planet. Over the last decade the brand’s social media platforms have hosted some of its most popular marketing initiatives, such as the epic Daily Twist – a 100-day online campaign to celebrate OREO’s 100th birthday by turning the cookie into the most iconic events of the century like the Mars rover landing or the Elvis Presley’s era

While the brand is present across all main platforms with vast following and frequent posting, the Instagram channel in particular is a true case study of world-class community management. The look & feel is heavily influenced by the brand colours – white, black and blue – which makes the feed instantly recognisable and pleasant to scroll. The key content pillars seem to be the following…

  • Product launches
    Bold, thumb-stopping posts featuring the latest additions to the OREO range. The limited editions ones – such as the Supreme collab announcement – specifically inject freshness in the feed and boost engagements through compelling captions and CTAs.
  • #foodporn and baking
    OREO is first and foremost a delicious cookie, and taste is definitely one of its main consumption drivers. There is a huge focus on glorifying the brand’s taste credentials through a combination of mouth-watering product shots, recipe suggestions and finger-licking user-generated content.
  • Reactive content
    This is about having an always-on approach to spark conversation around OREO in a way that is genuine to the brand itself. A couple of good examples are the #WorldEmojiDay tribute and the repost of LeBron James’ new basketball shoes announcement featuring the sneakers in a unique black and white colourway.

Just glancing at the feed, what stands out is the exorbitant follower count currently at 2.9 million, higher than other huge brands in the food & beverage industry like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, M&Ms, Cadbury’s. A clear indication that whatever they are doing on social media works extremely well.

Credits - OREO

Three tasty lessons 

So what is there to learn from OREO’s unique brand recipe?

Firstly that brand relevance can represent an innovative, strong approach to brand building. It obviously requires a heavy organisational shift and a thorough redefinition of the marketing mix, which is not always quick or straightforward especially in large contexts. But seeking category- and industry-defining initiatives rather then the usual incremental gains from the ‘my brand is better than your brand’ mentality can lead to surprisingly profitable outcomes.

Secondly that brand relevance – just like all marketing philosophies – can’t be achieved through communications only. There are (at least) three more Ps in the marketing mix which must be shaped accordingly, “product” being another crucial one.

Finally that although not replicable at OREO’s scale, a closer, emotional connection to pop-culture and consumers is something all brands can benefit from. So take action even if you’re a smaller player in your competitive set. Listen to consumers, get your voice out there, jump on trends if they fit your personality and look outside your industry for inspiration. You never know – you might even discover the new ‘bright red cookie’ opportunity!

Credits - Arturo Esparza / Unsplash

@albpis

Brand Manager by day, I edit AdCoffee by night. And I don't even drink coffee.
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